Boroughmuir Bears 31
Southern Knights 18
DAVID BARNES @ Meggetland
TWO first-half tries from Robbie McCallum set Boroughmuir Bears on their way to a second successive bonus-point victory, and condemned Southern Knights to finish the pre-split section of this Super6 Sprint Series winless.
Bears head coach Graham Shiel has spoken after defeats in the past about how his team judge themselves on performance rather than result, and he was consistent with that after this win. “We got a really good result against a Southern Knights team who are finding it tough at the moment, but our performance was well off where it has been the last three or four games,” he reflected.
“I have to hold my hand up personally, our training week wasn’t as good as it could have been for various reasons, and that reflected in the way we played,” he added. “It is, however, a lot easier to move forward off the back of a win.”
This result was not enough to lift Bears into the top half of the table for the post-split section of the campaign, and Shiel accepted that is a fair reflection of where the team are at the moment. “While this game was not a thing off beauty, they are still real contests with guys playing for pride and exposure, so there is still plenty to look forward to,” he concluded.
Conversely, it might not have been a win but it was a definite step forward for the Knights after their horror show against Ayrshire Bulls a fortnight ago. With the players showing plenty of fight, especially during a scrappy second half, the Borderers will take encouragement that they can break their duck in their two remaining games of the campaign, likely to be a re-match against the Bears at Meggetland next weekend and then a home match against either Heriot’s or Stirling County on 4th June.
There was an early indication that Bears were going to make this game hard for themselves when No 8 Trystan Andrews opted to collect the Knights’ kick-off as it floated harmlessly into touch and ended up putting a foot in touch, which gifted his opponents an early attacking line-out.
The visitors’ desire to prove a point was evident as they pushed Bears hard during the opening exchanges and came within a whisker of scoring the game’s opening try through Billy Wara on the right, before an Adam Scott and McCallum tag team effort wrestled the powerful winger into the corner flag.
Having weathered that storm, Bears drew first blood with an excellent solo effort from inside-centre McCallum, who stepped inside his man on halfway then ducked and weaved all the way to the try-line, past three or four flailing defenders.
Knights narrowed it to two points with a Nathan Chamberlain offside penalty, Bears promptly reasserted themselves when Hamish Bain waded through a couple of tackles in midfield then recycled quickly for Harry Mercer to dummy his way under the posts, and Knights bounced right back when Paul Eti Slater found a gap down the short side to send Aidan Cross home unchallenged.
McCallum then claimed his second try of the match when he took a short pass from scrum-half Murray Johnstone straight off quick line-out ball and ripped through a giant hole in the Knights’ defensive formation, showing plenty pace and stepping ability to run it home from 30-yards.
The end-t0-end nature of the contest, and the lack of conviction from both teams in defence, continued when Knights second-row Dalton Redpath burst past some weak tackling and offloaded to Ben Afshar for the game’s fifth try with only 34 minutes played.
Duncan Munn‘s aggressive charging down of the conversion was enough to put Chamberlain off, just as it had been with the Knights’ first try, meaning it was a six-point game at the turnaround.
There was a change of referee at the break with the injured Graeme Ormiston being replaced by touch-judge Michael Todd.
Bears claimed their bonus-point try five minutes into the second half, prompted by another coruscating break from McCallum, and finished off a few phases later when slick hands from Munn and McCallum (again) sent Glen Faulds over on the right.
A scuffle between Bain and Redpath turned into a 16-man pushing match, and with feathers ruffled the next 10 minutes were pretty loose. That initially suited the Knights better, who played with hard to handle aggression, but it was Bears who came closest to scoring during this period, when soft hand from McCallum sent Scott clear on a run which was eventually closed down five yards from the line.
Scott came close to scoring again with five minutes left on the clock after good hands from Glasgow Warriors team-mates George Horne and Bain, but Wara managed to get across and squeeze the Bears man into touch in the nick of time.
The hosts kept their foot on the gas, however, and got their reward when replacement No8 Mzwandile Mncube bustled over from the base of a close-range ruck.
Knights had the final word with Cross showing serious gas when he came off his wing to collect the ball in midfield then cruised past defenders like they were stuck in treacle on his way to the line.
Boroughmuir Bears: T Brown (R Kerr 51); G Faulds, D Munn, R McCallum, A Scott; H Mercer, M Johnstone (G Horne 38); B Sweet (C Anderson 65), C Tait (J Blyth-Lafferty 45), C Smith (M Goodwin 68), E Ferrie (J Fisher 54), H Bain, J King, S McGinley (L McConnell 63), T Andrews (M Mncube 65).
Southern Knights: C Grieve (K Clark 60); B Wara, P Eti Slater, R Chalmers (C Scott 51), A Cross; N Chamberlain, B Afshar (M Redpath 70); G Shiells (W Owen 70), F Renwick (J Bett 69), I Brace (M Woodward, 41), D Redpath (T Brown 68), R Brown, S Derrick (W Nelson 54), A Ferrie, H Borthwick.
Referee: Graeme Ormiston (M Todd 41)
Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: McCallum 2, Mercer, Faulds, Mncube; Con: Scott 3.
Southern Knights: Tries: Cross 2, Afshar; Pen: Chamberlain.
Scoring sequence (Boroughmuir Bears first): 5-0; 5-3; 10-3; 12-3; 12-8; 17-8; 19-8l 19-13 (h-t) 24-13; 29-13; 31-13; 31-18.
Man-of-the-Match: Two solo tries, several more incisive breaks, solid in the tackle, good hands, a crucial strip of Billy Wara early on, sound decision-making and a fierce competitor over ball, Bears centre Robbie McCallum was a stick-on for this award.
Talking point: Boroughmuir Bears used two 18-year-old hookers in Jerry Blyth-Lafferty and Corey Tait, and also had 17-year-old Liam McConnell came on in the back-row for the last 20 minutes, with none of those youngsters looking remotely out of place at this level. Great to see.